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Review: Raw

Mar 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221293:43454:0[/embed] Raw (Grave)Director: Julia DucournauRating: RRelease Date: March 10, 2017Country: France/Belgium Justine (Garance Marillier) is an in-coming freshman at a veterinary college. It's the same school that her parents attended and where her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is a current student. She's a lifelong vegetarian; at a buffet en route to the college, her mom berates a clerk for an errant meatball in Justine's mashed potatoes. During a hazing ritual at the vet school, Justine gets her first taste of meat when she's force fed a raw rabbit kidney. That fetid little taste awakens something sexy and dangerous in her. Raw is set in an off-kilter place where fictional conceits co-mingle with quotidian problems. It's the location for weird literary short fiction, allowing anything and everything to function as a metaphor or a metaphorical space. There's the familiar trope of the teenage girl whose sexual maturation is a source of horror for herself and others. Justine is the gawky young woman trying to figure out adulthood and sexiness and desire and how to juggle all of these new cravings she has. But Ducournau avoids many of the simple 1:1 ratios of familiar genre metaphors by complicating her world and its characters. Justine's taste for flesh is borne of freedom from home, and it becomes a point of sibling rivalry. I mentioned Ducournau's knack for the visceral, which is evidenced early in the film during the first hazing ritual. The freshman are forced out of bed and into some on-campus rave. Ducournau's camera follows Justine through the flashing lights and the throb of the music. First she's annoyed and alone, but as the scene continues to play out, she and the audience find the exhilaration of the moment, and the underlying emotional current of the scene changes. When Justine gets the shakes like a junkie in withdrawal, Ducournau closes the whole of the world into the hallucinatory nightmare of Justine in fetal position under her sheet. In what's sure to be the most talked about scene of the film, a silly, sisterly moment of bonding between Justine and Alexia becomes a squirmy horror set piece for the ages. As it happened, I smiled at the brilliant audacity of the execution. That "brilliant audacity" is what I liked about so much of Raw, and it's often pulled off throughout the film with casual unexpectedness. Justine seems to be going mad with her rush of desires, and occasionally some unexpected image would appear on screen and haunt me a bit. A horse on a treadmill or an animal carcass ready for class dissection is full of such fervid, dreamlike weight. Marillier plays fragile Justine and feral Justine so well and of a piece. Any interaction between Justine and her male roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) gets loaded with an expectant dread. Will she? Is this hunger? Won't she? Is this desire? Why not both? The way Justine and Alexia's antagonisms play out over the course of Raw is fascinating as well, and hints at a longer history. There's affection tinged with enmity between these sisters. The fact that so much of Raw works so well may be why I come back to the closing notes of Raw and why they fell so flat for me. So much of the movie is a gut punch filmed with such great craft. Justine is built up and broken and humiliated and I was hoping for one last moment that would linger the same way as so many others. I felt like the movie traded its gut punches for a rote, tepid, expected wind down, and then punctuated it with a flimsy punchline. And yet that wind down makes sense emotionally, and that punchline opens up this rich, sadly unexplored avenue of the story. That may speak to the promise of Ducournau as filmmaker to watch--that I think there's something good wrapped up in a sour note, something exciting in the shadow of a disappointing coda. I guess sometimes even great cuts of meat have a little gristle.
Review: Raw photo
Flesh, sex, and self-destruction
While playing at film festivals last year, the hype over Raw was insane. Writer/director Julia Ducournau's coming-of-age horror/cannibal drama purportedly caused audience members to faint, to vomit, to leave screenings in dis...

Review: We Are the Flesh

Jan 12 // Hubert Vigilla
TRAILER IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK (NSFW) [embed]220963:43146:0[/embed] We Are the Flesh (Tenemos le carne)Director: Emiliano Rocha MinterRating: NRRelease Date: January 13, 2017 (limited)Country: Mexico  We Are the Flesh reminds me of early Clive Barker splatterpunk stories; one scene in thermal vision even recalls Barker's little-seen short film The Forbidden. There's also a hint of Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man, though it's shorn of the technological madness and kinetic stuff--this transgression is luridly organic. Maybe Tetsuo by way of Gaspar Noe, with occasional outbursts of hysterical excess straight out of Andrzej Zulawski (Possession). The film also has some moist, mucus-rich makeup effects that wouldn't be out of place in a Brian Yuzna movie (Society, From Beyond). This paragraph is either a warning or a recommendation--if you want blood, you got it. There's a man with a demonic smile (Noe Hernandez) who lives in an abandoned building. He gets high on homemade gasoline and gets off on solitude. A boy (Diego Gamaliel) and a girl (Maria Evoli), siblings, enter his building. They're desperately in search of food and shelter. The man lets them stay as long as they help him construct a claustrophobic landscape within the building. Think of something like a cave and a uterus complete with a pseudo birth canal; a psychoanalytic hellscape where the id can thrive. All the while, the man tries to coerce the boy and the girl to break social, sexual, and interpersonal taboos. Minter builds up dread through whispers and shouts as he mounts transgressions upon each other. There's incest, rape, murder, cannibalism, on-camera sex, and necrophilia, and even now I can't say what it all adds up to. We Are the Flesh may not add up to anything, to be honest. Even though Hernandez and Evoli give the film their all--Evoli in particular goes for psychotic broke--the movie may just be images and noise with the intent to shock. I think there's a political allegory about Mexico and poverty, that a lack of means reduces us to some base state of nature in which social mores no longer matter. But it's a bit of a guess. It might be a stretch. Sometimes extreme cinema is just extreme cinema, but I can't help but sense something more meaningful behind all of this given how repulsed yet affected I felt. When someone lets out a blood-curdling scream, there has to be a reason, right? Maybe? Or was it just the desire to scream? This struggle for meaning is probably an intentional provocation from Minter. When confronted with something shocking, I usually feel challenged to interpret it. Yet Minter evades overt meaning making. There seems to be 10 minutes missing from the final act of the 80-minute film. Several events take place off camera unexplained, and it leads to total narrative disorientation. We Are the Flesh was a feverish nightmare already, and then that skimpy dream logic breaks down completely. No order, not for this this movie. What Minter provides is a sustained sense of unease, however. That feeling remained with me even after a less than satisfying conclusion. Even if We Are the Flesh only prompts exasperation and disgust, it's such a strange trip into the abyss I want to send others down there into the dark who are willing. Minter, like or hate it, is a Mexican filmmaker to watch. I'm reminded of something Clive Barker said about movies once (paraphrased): I want to feel something, even if it's just disgust; better that than thinking, okay, let's go for a pizza. After We Are the Flesh, pizza was the last thing I wanted.
Review: We Are the Flesh photo
The ecstasy of pure id
Reviewing We Are the Flesh from writer/director Emiliano Rocha Minter is tricky. On the one hand, it's a deeply flawed film aimed at a limited audience. It's transgressive in the extreme, sexually explicit bordering on pornog...

Review: Elle

Nov 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220908:43150:0[/embed] ElleDirector: Paul VerhoevenRating: RRelease Date: November 11, 2016 (limited)Country: France  Elle starts with the rape, in media res. Verhoeven shoots the scene with surprising restraint. There's the noise of the assault off camera. Michèle's pet cat looks on blankly. The rapist, dressed in black with a ski mask, stands and wipes blood from his hip and groin and then walks away. Michèle tidies up around the kitchen and continues about her day in a daze. She's in shock, but it's subtle. A brief bubble bath scene is so artfully done and haunting. Michèle's a bit angrier at her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) when he comes to visit than she would be otherwise. Vincent asks about the bruise on the side of her face. She says she fell off her bike. The rape goes unreported. When Michèle finally mentions it to anyone, she waits for the most awkward moment possible to bring it up. She says what happened as if she lost a credit card. Is it a coping mechanism or is it just the movie playing provocateur? Elle aims for the uncomfortable laugh, and for a while it succeeds in doling out its cringe humor. At a certain point, it's just cringes. While dealing with horrible things in life, one hundred other genres may be occurring in the world simultaneously. A portion of the film plays like a thriller, with Michèle narrowing down the suspects in her life while her attacker stalks and harasses her. As this thriller plays out, there's a family dramedy: Michèle's jealous about her ex-husband's new girlfriend, annoyed by her son's screwed up relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, and can't stand her mother's new boyfriend either. Then there's the matter of her father and an infamous trauma in her past, one essential to Michèle's character but never explored substantively in the story. Huppert's a saving grace for the film in that she plays everything so straight, even Michèle's unexpected actions and reactions. Yet these are just actions in a performance, not necessarily actions stemming from a character. I could rarely get a handle on who Michèle was or how she interpreted the world and the events around her. The rape is replayed explicitly in the film, and then played again as a kind of revenge fantasy. Later, Michèle seems to invite victimization. There's a harrowing scene in which Michèle seems turned on by the idea of the man she's with raping her, recreating the trauma that opened the film. Is she feeling pleasure? Is that pain and masochistic shame? Is it a mix of both, and if so, what then? Huppert wears an inscrutable mask before, during, and after the scene. The moment is never discussed afterward. I don't need on-screen psychoanalysis or to be handheld through a narrative, but I'd like to be given some hint of what Michèle feels about what's happened. Elle avoids exploring the emotional impact of rape. Instead the film tries to offer Michèle's detachment as some opaque and oblique portrait of her psychology, but even this amounts to a blank gray page. This is all extremely difficult and sensitive territory to explore, especially when Michèle's motives are so ambiguous. Sure, there's never a single correct way for someone to respond to trauma, but rather than provide an alternative portrait of recovery or greater insight into this personality in flux, I felt as if Elle was simply pushing buttons and inverting the traditional rape-revenge narrative for the shock value. That's easier and less painful than really getting into someone's interior life after such a traumatic experience. The film's MO seems to be keep the focus on the inscrutable surface, and make it shocking. It doesn't help that Elle's perspective is male dominated; it's directed by Verhoeven from a script by David Birke, and adapted from a novel by Philippe Dijan. Am I watching a woman's experience as she struggles to retake power as all the men in her life rob her of agency? Or am I just watching a male interpretation of all this that indulges in a little bit of rape fantasy? This might all be up for audience interpretation, which makes me surprised that so many critics have written that the film is so empowering to women and makes bold statements. I don't think it says anything at all, or intends to empower anyone; it's just well-orchestrated provocation. No surprise that by the end of Elle, I was left feeling a sour and empty frustration. Michèle is the head of a video game company, though this portion of Elle serves as a mild subtextual and metatextual backdrop. They're making a medieval action-adventure--think Warcraft by way of Assassin's Creed with really antiquated graphics. During a meeting, one of her designers--a man who may be the rapist--says that Michèle's pretentious literary background has gotten in the way of the game's basic playability. I think Verhoeven's penchant for provocation might have gotten in the way of the fundamental human concerns of Elle.
Review: Elle photo
Provocative, but is it saying anything?
Elle has been billed as a rape-comedy, but that's a misnomer. It's a comedy in the classical sense given the events of the story, but it's not necessarily funny (there are funny scenes, though). And yes, it's about rape. Elle...

Review: Tampopo

Oct 21 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220968:43157:0[/embed] TampopoDirector: Juzo ItamiRating: NRRelease Date: October 21, 2016 (limited)Country: Japan  There's a familiar old west tale in Tampopo, with variations on cowboys and saloons and pretty schoolmarms. Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and Gun (Ken Watanabe) are a pair of truck-driving gourmands that mosey into town. They stop by a noddle shop in a sorry state run by a widow named Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto). She's quaint, mousy, often dressed in gingham, demure to a fault. Also, her ramen just plain sucks. Since they're good cowboys, Goro and Gun help Tampopo improve her shop, sort of like working the farm or rebuilding this here schoolhouse. Tampopo spends the the film perfecting her ramen and in the process attempts to perfect herself. It's not just a western but, philosophically, a martial arts movie. This is a story about the discipline of mastery. Think Jiro Dreams of Sushi, except ramen: self-improvement through a process of trial and error and practice. It's a familiar narrative, but when filtered through an unexpected intermediary, it achieves remarkable existential heft. Even in a decidedly lighthearted comedy like Tampopo, it's moving to witness someone try and try again until they achieve some ennobling dignity, no matter how small. All that effort for a good bowl of soup. But that's just part of the oddball/heartfelt appeal of Tampopo. Soba isn't the only noodle. The movie starts with a gangster in white (Koji Yakusho) and his moll (Fukumi Kuroda) entering a movie theater, ostensibly to watch the main story of Tampopo described above. The gangster waxes philosophical about life, death, and the movies, and then roughs up a guy crinkling a bag of chips in the row behind him. Later in the film, the gangster and his moll reappear periodically, using food as foreplay. By comparison, these scenes make 9 1/2 Weeks seem like the missionary position in Mormon underwear. Swirling around these two recurring narratives are a series of one-off skits on the role of food in people's lives. So many rituals, roles, and social codes are built around food and propriety, and we take a break from our gal at the noodle shop to get a survey of food culture in 1980s Japan. What Tampopo seems to emphasize in most of these one-offs is the sensual pleasure of food, and how our desire for sweets and richness and even just sloppy eating can't be restrained. Yet even when defying restraint, our taste for the sensual can be refined and in the process our appreciation for pleasure deepened. Tampopo isn't a movie for foodies. What a wretched, bourgie word that is. Tampopo is a movie for uplifting gormandizers who want to suck marrow rather than spoon it from the bone. Tampopo was just the second film from Itami, though it seems so assured and confident. Who else but a confident filmmaker decides to include a goofy rice omelet scene with a hobo? At numerous times the actors address some off-camera interlocutor by looking directly at the audience. This recurring quirk is sort of like Ozu, but not like Ozu at all. Tonally I was reminded a little of A Christmas Story, but then in comes a sexy or dark or sensitive moment redolent of some separate influence. Every couple minutes, unexpected surprises, and just more and more delight.
Review: Tampopo photo
Zen and the sexiness of ramen making
Prior to this week, the last time I saw Juzo Itami's 1985 food comedy Tampopo was in the mid-90s. I remembered so little of the movie save for the fact that I enjoyed it. Some isolated scenes are easy to recall, though. There...

Fifty Shades Darker photo
Fifty Shades Darker

Here's the darker trailer for Fifty Shades Darker

Fifty Shades Danker
Sep 15
// Nick Valdez
I read the trilogy, I reviewed the original film, and now I'm here to tell you about Fifty Shades Darker. There's honestly not much to say about it. It has the same look as the first one, has the same lack of chemistry its tw...
Tampopo rerelease photo
Tampopo rerelease

Quirky cult Japanese food comedy Tampopo getting 4k restoration and theatrical rerelease

Egg-cellent and egg-quisite
Sep 13
// Hubert Vigilla
To paraphrase Roger Ebert, Juzo Itami's 1985 Japanese comedy Tampopo seems to exist outside of traditional categories. It's a movie I remember enjoying a lot when I rented it in high school, with its oddball exploration of fo...

Tribeca Capsule Review: The Last Laugh

Apr 25 // Hubert Vigilla
The Last LaughDirector: Ferne PearlsteinRating: TBDRelease Date: TBD  It seems a cop out to say your mileage may vary, and yet that seems the only viable answer. Mel Brooks appears in the film doing an excellent Hitler impersonation using a black comb. (A subtle adjustment of the comb and he becomes Joseph Stalin--tada!) Brooks will mock Hitler relentlessly and delights in it, but could never make a joke about The Holocaust itself. It's his personal limit. The Spanish Inquisition is fine, though--jokes are all about the timing. Sarah Silverman, on the other hand, goes all out. There's even mention of the mixed response to Hogan's Heroes and Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful, with polarized opinions coming from comedians, filmmakers, and a representative from the Anti-Defamation League. The discussions aren't particularly new since any discussion of the uses of comedy has to consider the limits (if any) of comedic material. There's the idea of inflicting ridicule as a type of power for the powerless and the idea of hope and the idea that certain communities and groups are able to make certain kinds of jokes while others aren't--with Holocaust jokes, the suffering is a Jewish experience and so should be the comedic catharsis. What's interesting is the juggling act between Firestone as a survivor and an speaker at museums who shares her pain and the comedians who never had to live through her experiences. A generational aspect is added to the subjective one. Yet the two sides don't quite gel, which makes the movie feel like a bit of a Venn diagram--two separate docs with something common between them. There's probably a more substantive discussion about comedy, its limits, and what comedians should consider when making jokes about oppressed groups or about a particularly dark period in history. The Last Laugh might not delve much deeper into that discussion about the art of comedy, but that's fine. It gives a human face to a survivor of the worst indignities of the 20th century. That Renee smiles is hopeful. We can't possibly laugh at her, and it's presumptuous to say we laugh for her just given the subjectivity of humor. We laugh with her because she's still able to do so herself; maybe we laugh because otherwise we'd just cry.
Review: The Last Laugh photo
There's no accounting for bad taste
As I've gotten older, I've noticed more conversations and thinkpieces about what topics are off-limits for comedians, such as racist jokes, jokes about rape, jokes about The Holocaust, and so on. This might stray into a large...

The Cult Club: Wet Hot American Summer (2001) Awkwardly Flirted Into Our Hearts (and Pants)

Jul 31 // Hubert Vigilla
In a lot of ways, Wet Hot American Summer is a cult movie made by the generation that grew up watching cult movies and cult television. Picture this sign on the treehouse: "The Wet Hot American Summer Cult Club--No Boomers Allowed... Unless You've Seen Zapped with Scott Baio... or Sledge Hammer!" The film takes place in one day at Camp Firewood, the final day at Camp Firewood, the only one that matters. And into this day is poured multiple teen movie cliches: telling your crush you're into them, virgins trying to get laid, bad boys being bad to good girlfriends, exuberant montages, demented staff, friends trying to get their virgin friends laid, a talent show, telekinesis, hidden romances, nerdy kids saving the day. So much happens so quickly that logical notions of time and space have no meaning. An hour-long trip seems to cover a weekend of events, a one-minute training montage seems to cover a week of exercise and self-discovery, a single day carries in it a month-long trajectory of emotions. And that's the whole point. Wet Hot American Summer takes place in a film version of time and space since it's a movie about the culminating plots of other movies. Beneath that meta-layer, there's perhaps a wistful tinge of nostalgia as well--as a kid, summer seems to go by so fast, like the entire summer is just a single day. Mostly it's just funny if you think about it, but also if, in a smart and detached way, you really don't think about it too much. Even though the movie is about the culminating stories of other camp movies, Wet Hot American Summer isn't constructed with a single narrative thrust that climaxes and wraps up neatly. The movie stops and starts as title cards note the passage of in-story meta-movie time. A potential Bad News Bears-style showdown in the middle of the film seems like the big set piece we've been waiting for, and yet it's self-consciously avoided. A camper says that the cliche of the big game is trite, and the counselors agree, because ultimately it is trite. Summers, whether a day or an entire season, rarely have that kind of shape with a solid conclusion. Instead, Wet Hot American Summer is more like a feature-length sketch show that just ends when camp ends. The final shot of the film is suitably unceremonious. [embed]219652:42516:0[/embed] I think Wet Hot American Summer is alive today because some Gen-Xers got the joke--were in on the joke--and are now in power at Netflix.  From their streaming thrones, they're able to dole out the filthy original-series lucre as they see fit. (And good for them.) I can't help but stress the whole Gen-X angle, which bleeds into a millennial attachment to the film. It may also explain why film critics of the time (who were predominantly Baby Boomers) just couldn't get into it. The Boomers weren't really in on the joke; some didn't even get the set-up or that the set-up and punchline were sometimes one in the same. Like other cult followings, there's a sense of exclusivity. When Scott Tobias wrote about Wet Hot American Summer for the AV Club back in 2008, he identified the makers of the film as well as many of the cultists: Here's a movie from 2001 that doesn't concern itself with yesterday's box-office hits, but with a sub-sub-genre of comedies from the late '70s to the mid-'80s, starting with Meatballs and its sequel, and including other disreputable standards like the TV movie Poison Ivy (with Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon), SpaceCamp, and the non-gory scenes in their slasher cousins like Friday The 13th and Sleepaway Camp. But it doesn't stop there: WHAS is pitched specifically to Reagan-era latchkey kids who grew up watching these movies on television, and have a certain generalized nostalgia about the fashions, hairstyles, graphical elements, and other minutiae that seeped into their wood-paneled family rooms. Tobias, a Gen-Xer like that first-wave of classic AV Club writers, is a Wet Hot acolyte. (Gooble gobble.) The comedy is so videostore and VCR-based, drawing on a shared cultural memory not just of middle-class summer camp experiences but about movies-about-summer-camp and teen-sex-movies and slashers-at-camp-movies and that-one-joke-I-saw-on-late-night-TV; and maybe to a certain degree, the movie is also about people trying to model their real-life summer camp experiences to match the things they saw in films and TV. The time-space weirdness of the movie seems to suggest that it's impossible to make real life work like the movies; further, if real life worked out that way, it would make reality trite. Wain and collaborators Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, and Joe Lo Truglio were all members of MTV's sketch show The State, which is one of the cultiest cult shows that ever did cult-show. A lot of the fondness for Wet Hot American Summer comes from an attachment that many had to The State and the projects that the cast embarked on following The State's cancellation. (Maybe a question to consider in all this: at what point does fondness become nostalgia?) The State was at the forefront of that cult sketch comedy canon, along with The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, The Dana Carvey Show, and The Ben Stiller Show (of which camp director Janeane Garofalo was an alum; ditto a brief stint on Saturday Night Live). Thinking about it, you really can't have sketch comedy without grounding that in the improv tradition. Think of places like Second City, The Upright Citizens Brigade, and The Groundlings. These were the places where SNL and SCTV found their players. Improv is often built on discrete scenes with a common theme, all of which abide by a "yes and" mentality between performers in order to keep a joke alive and to enhance it. The "yes and" at the heart of improv might be the adult collaborative equivalent of a child using "and then" as a conjunction while telling a story that they're really excited about. [embed]219652:42519:0[/embed] The State's comedy tradition and the film's roots in home video explain the varied nature of Wet Hot American Summer's humor--a series of personal experiences by way of movie cliches joined together by strange "and then's" with lots of "yes and's." It's also why (again, if you're in on the joke) a lot of the comedy hits. The characters at Camp Firewood are rendered broadly from a collection of tropes, as if hewn from a sketch team's writing room or from an improv team's regular house show. Each character is dropped into situations that play to their strengths as comic figures, and it just keeps going--and then, and then, and then until the end. Beyond that, there's the awkward interpersonal comedy, mostly having to do with flirting and attraction. There's slapstick. There's quotable non-sequiturs mostly from Christopher Meloni as the 'Nam-addled camp cook. The visual gags are there too (e.g., why are they wrestling behind the line for corn?), and ditto some audio ones (e.g., Wilhelm scream). Wet Hot takes its lessons not just from improv and sketch, but also from Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker at their best: keep the jokes coming fast, from different angles, and don't just rely on one type of humor. The Wet Hot American Summer series on Netflix is a prequel rather than a sequel. A sequel would have made logical sense since they tease a 10-year reunion in the film, a snippet of which is seen after the credits. And yet it's a prequel show about the first day of camp rather than the last, and most of the cast looks their age (i.e., comfortably into their 40s). Come to think of it, they're following up a 90-minute movie about the final day of camp with eight half-hour episodes about the first day of camp. But that's the joke. Wet Hot American Summer continues its own tradition of operating in a pocket of movie-space and movie-time, and the set-up and punchline are one. Its driving comedy imperative of yes's, and's, and then's hopefully still abides. [embed]219652:42518:0[/embed] Next Month... We're taking a look at one of the odd moments in American film and popular culture: the time in the 1970s when pornography went mainstream. Known alternatively as prono chic and The Golden Age of Porn, Flixist will focus one of the seminal (now, now) films from that era: 1972's Deep Throat. In addition to looking at Deep Throat, we'll consider the rise and fall of The Golden Age of Porn (blame home video), how the clash over porn led to a division among second wave feminists, and how the ugly side of this pornorific era in American culture was depicted in films such as Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and, more recently, Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried. Yup. Porn. I'm sure putting that Philosophy degree to work. PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB Repo Man (1984) Putney Swope (1969) Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) The Last Dragon (1985) Tromeo and Juliet (1996)
Wet Hot American Summer photo
"I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters"
David Wain's Wet Hot American Summer is one of the least likely movies to inspire a follow-up of any kind. The film was savaged by critics upon its release and barely made a dent at the box office; Universal even denied the m...

Magic Mike XXL photo
Magic Mike XXL

New Magic Mike XXL trailer lays it on very thick

May 06
// Matthew Razak
Man, are they having fun at the WB marketing department with Magic Mike XXL. Judging from this new trailer it seems like they've ditched all semblance of taking this seriously like they tried to with the first one. Instead we...
Fifty Super Spot photo
Fifty Super Spot

Super Bowl TV spot for Fifty Shades of Grey

Feb 03
// Nick Valdez
In preparation for the Fifty Shades film, which I have no idea which one of us is going to review yet, I started reading the book. Boy, is it far more fan fiction-y than I had realized. It's got some of the worst written sex...
Fifty Shades photo
Fifty Shades

Newest trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey will see you now

Nov 14
// Nick Valdez
So I had to find out about this teaser from my mom. Premiering during last night's Scandal on ABC, my mother felt the need to contact me to ask if I had any more info on it. While I don't want to see my mother that way (as I...
50 Shades Trailer photo
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me
So, here we are. Although Fifty Shades of Grey will never be the movie you want (but if you wanted straight porn, it's out there already), I can promise this trailer at least captures the tone of your favorite romance/pornog...

A Dame to Kill For photo
A Dame to Kill For

UPDATE: Eva Green's boobiful Sin City: A Dame to Kill For poster gets MPAA approved version

Nipples be damned
Jun 09
// Nick Valdez
UPDATE: Page Six has updated their story with the newly, and hilariously, MPAA approved poster. The one difference? Green's nipples are no longer prominent. Hahaha. Check it out in the gallery.  For reasons completely un...

Paul Verhoeven looking to direct Oh...

Oh... is the title of the movie, wasn't being clever there
May 07
// Matthew Razak
We haven't heard much out of Paul Verhoeven in a long time. The boundary pushing director hasn't made a full film since Black Book in 2006 and his short film Tricked barely got any play outside of his Dutch homeland...

Review: Nymphomaniac: Vol. I

Apr 03 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]217491:41395:0[/embed] Nymphomaniac Vol. IDirector: Lars von TrierRelease Date: March 21, 2014Rating: NC-17  Nymphomaniac Volume I opens in a way that only an epic can: with a full minute of blackness. For that minute, the viewer sees nothing and can't really tell what's being heard. And then it switches; it goes quiet as the image of an alleyway in the rain appears. For the next three minutes, there are long shots of gutters and falling rain, and then a hand.   But the cherry on top, and the moment that I knew I was going to find this funny, was that this hand cued a Rammstein song. I hadn't heard the song before, but I knew from the first note who had made it, and once Till Lindemann's voice came on, I started laughing. As Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) happens upon Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), battered and bruised in that alleyway, I couldn't help but wonder if that was a mistake. But the dialogue that followed, and then continued throughout the two hour runtime, proved that Lars von Trier is either a comedic genius or completely demented. (Realistically, it's probably a bit of both.) One thing that makes Nymphomaniac so funny is its obsession with fishing. Joe is a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac (but true story: she never actually calls herself a nymphomaniac in this cut; Seligman is the first one to use the phrase), and the film takes place in flashbacks as she tells the story of her young, nymphomaniac life. It goes from a young, young age up through her teenage years. Young Joe isn't played by Gainsbourg, who is bedridden for the duration of Volume I, but by Stacy Martin, a first time actress who found herself one hell of a debut. But as Gainsbourg recounts her childhood exploits, Seligman finds himself drawn to fishing comparisons, not as a one-off thing . He hears penis, and thinks fishing rod. It's truly bizarre. As is the editing. When Seligman compares Young Joe's exploits to checking out the river before sinking a line, her path is rewound and replayed, this time overlaid against a running body of water, in case the metaphor went over anybody's heads. And weird things like that are found all throughout, to the point where I actually thought I was watching the wrong movie. Cuts to photographs and pictures are frequent, some of which are more relevant than others. Sometimes it just turns into a slideshow, because in a movie about a nymphomaniac, why not? I'd be interested to see what von Trier's approved cut looks like (Nymphomaniac marks the first time he did not have final approval over a release), and whether it has more or less of these weird little moments. The other films of his I've seen have a little bit of that "Why not?"quality, but to some extent, it's really more of a "fuck it" attitude. Like someone didn't really care about what they were doing, and went with the kitchen sink because of it. And with that extremely clever use of that sexual verb, let's talk about pornography: Nymphomaniac is not pornography. Not even close. Much was made of the decision to have pornographic doubles standing in, but in the wide release cut, there was only one actual penetration that I can recall, and it was short. The vast majority of the sex scenes look like the sex scenes in any movie. Even if there were doubles for everything, there wasn't much reason for them. Nearly everything could have been simulated without much trouble, and the few things that are obviously real don't really affect it one way or the other. I mean, the film is called "Nymphomaniac." Going in expecting hardcore pornography, I was somewhat disappointed. Not because I wanted to watch Shia LeBeouf getting it on with Stacy Martin or anything, but because I wondered what hardcore art porn would look like. I still don't know. But, if you have a particular aversion to flaccid penises, then you're going to have some trouble getting through Nymphomaniac. There may not be a lot of erections, but there are a heck of a lot of penises just sort of flopping around. Sometimes it's just people existing while naked, and other times it's in those weird photo inserts, but there are just a lot of penises. It's not upsetting or anything, but it definitely feels unnecessary. By the end, throwing another penis onto the mountain of penises doesn't really seem to make the penis mountain any bigger. But it does make it somewhat harder to climb. And with that weird thought out of the way, let me say that I quite liked the first part of Nymphomaniac. I was legitimately surprised by how much. I expected to be interested by what von Trier had done, and I definitely didn't expect to be entertained. But Volume I is a legitimately funny (and fun-ish) film... even if it doesn't always feel like it's supposed to be. 
Nymphomaniac: Vol. I photo
Part one of Lars von Trier's comedic, pornographic opus
In my mind, Lars von Trier doesn't make comedies. The only other von Trier films I've seen are the first two entries in the Depression Trilogy, Antichrist and Melancholia. I enjoyed them all in their own way, but as...


Trailer: Sex Tape (Red Band)

Spoiler alert: you can kind of see Cameron Diaz's boobs
Apr 02
// Sean Walsh
You know, being one of the youngest guys at my office (at a whopping 27), I encounter a lot of technical questions. I understand 'computer stuff' better than a lot of my older coworkers (many of whom still use Internet Explo...

NSFW: Red band trailer for Filth sure is filthy

Mar 21
// Liz Rugg
James McAvoy stars in Filth as Scottish Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, a man with a lot of vices who'll do anything to get his way. This red band trailer for Filth is very NSFW, so you can check it out below, along with ...

Review: Guilty of Romance

Mar 17 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]217462:41330:0[/embed] Guilty of Romance (Koi no Tsumi | 恋の罪)Director: Sion SonoRelease Date: March 17, 2014 (NYC)Country: Japan In a parallel universe, Guilty of Romance is called Sukimono, which the internet tells me translates to "Nymphomaniac." While it lacks the explicit pornography found in Lars von Trier's sexual opus, its protagonist is every bit as tortured by her obsession with sex. Izumi (Megumi Kagurazaka) is the adoring wife of beloved romance novelist Yukio Kikuchi (Kanji Tsuda), though she plays the role of servant more than wife. Each morning, she helps him get ready for work, and every night she makes sure his tea is ready and his slippers are placed perfectly in front of the door. Their sex life is non-existent. (That she doesn't wonder where the inspiration for his erotic writing comes from is odd, but whatever.) But this all takes place in the past. In the present (a time that's only visited on a few occasions), a grisly murder has occurred, and in a particularly disgusting abandoned apartment, two bodies are found, with limbs and heads replaced by those of manequins (at that point, I regretted my decision to watch the film immediately before going to sleep, but I fortunately didn't have any nightmares). I don't know how much the film gains by its use of the framing narrative. It adds some extra gross-factor and the cloud of impending doom certainly colors the proceedings, but even though the bodies are not identified until the film's end, that mystery is often forgotten in the midst of the chaos of the past. Izumi, tired of being a housewife, gets a job offering free samples at a grocery store. She stands with a plate in hand and shouts about the delicious sausages. Foreshadowing? You betcha. Soon after, she becomes the sex-crazed maniac she had always longed to be. And for a while, everything seems to be going well, but this is a Sion Sono film, so things have to take a turn. Also, someone's going to get butchered, so obviously there's no happy ending. But through all of this, I found myself detached from the action. The sex is often upsetting and disturbing to watch, but even so I couldn't really care about what was happening. I've been wrestling with why that is, and I think I've figured it out: Sion Sono's hyper-stylized visuals. The colorful room I mentioned before the jump was not colorful because the room was particularly vibrant, but because the lights were. All throughout Guilty of Romance, colorful hues help to define locations and times. In the morning, Izumi's house is white; at night, it's yellow. The seedy underground world is harsh red and green. In the pure light of her home, it's easier to relate; but when the environment is as unsettling as the people it contains, it becomes difficult to connect on any kind of human level. It just doesn't feel real. And since things go wrong almost exclusively in those bizzaro settings, I found myself seeing insanity without any feelings other than, perhaps, disgust. (In retrospect, this is probably why I wasn't a huge fan of Sono's even more stylized Strange Circus.) But even as I felt disconnected from the characters, I was still invested in the experience. Guilty of Romance is one of those films that you'd expect to come out of Japan. It's crazy, hyper-sexual/violent (and not in a good way), and fascinating. It's also too long, and I was shocked to find out that the original cut was 31 minutes longer. Sure, this is the man who had a six-hour version of Love Exposure before it was chopped to four, but at 113 minutes it already overstays its welcome. I'm usually of the mind that a film should be seen in its original incarnation, or at least in the version that the director approved (in rare cases, that version is actually shorter than the official release, though I don't expect that's the case here), but here I don't subscribe to that notion. The 144 minute version is only available in Japan (and Germany, oddly enough), so there's no real way for the vast majority of people to see it, but there's no reason to want to. There are places that I see could have been fleshed out a bit more (especially the present day timeline), and perhaps the original cut featured more of that (and perhaps I would have felt that the use of that framing narrative was more justified), but it would have just been more padding to a film that already felt much too padded. But Sion Sono makes films like nobody else, and Guilty of Romance is as pure a distillation of his style as I've seen since Strange Circus. His films are just weird, and so is he. Hell, after Guilty of Romance finished, he and Megumi Kagurazaka (who was also in Cold Fish and Himizu) got engaged. That takes a very special kind of man, and that is the only kind of man who would make a movie like this one. So as the screen went to black, just before the credits appeared, I could only think one thing: "Yeah, that's about right."
Guilty of Romance Review photo
Exactly what you expect
I greatly enjoyed Himizu, another 2011 Sion Sono film released last week in NYC theaters, but there was something it lacked that I expected from that sort of film: sex. It had the violence (although it was definitely subdued ...


Trailer for Bad Johnson, a movie about a living... you know

No... really
Mar 14
// Matthew Razak
As this trailer started I was rolling my eyes so hard they got a good look at my brain. I mean the lead characters name is Rich Johnson, two euphemisms for penis? This is not going to go well. Just wait until he starts talki...

SXSW Review: Wetlands

Mar 08 // Matthew Razak
[embed]217403:41312:0[/embed] WetlandsDirector: David WnendtRated: R Country: GermanyRelease Date: August 22, 2013 (Germany)  What is supposed to be so controversial about Wetlands, which is based on a controversial book of the same name, is its lead's predilection with bodily fluids and kinky sexual escapades. Helen is a teenage girl who we learn is obsessed with bodily fluids and sex to the extent that she gets sexual pleasure from her hemorrhoids and is on a lifelong mission to see just how dirty she can make her vagina (we witness her rubbing it on a urine covered toilet seat). However, after a lifetime of not treating her hemorrhoids she causes an anal fissure while shaving and must be rushed to the hospital. There she concocts a plan to get her separated parents back together while she treats her male nurse to more and more vivid sexual fantasies.  The first issue arises that the movie just isn't that terribly shocking to anyone who has ever been on the Internet. Maybe there's a generational gap somewhere so that older audiences are still appalled and shocked by blatant sexuality on screen, but most of what you see can be easily found on the web in even more graphic fashions. The movie, while full of many gross out moments, is more disturbing than it is truly shocking. There are definitely boundaries pushed in one sense, but they've all been broken in another. A bit of shock coupled with an interesting character makes for a great movie, though and the first 15 minutes of the film actually seem to be leading to this. A jaded viewer can't ding a film too much for simply not shocking them. The real problem arises when you realize that shock is all there is. The first 15 minutes of the film establishes an interesting character as we're sucked into Helen's world of sexual deviance, but the moment she is whisked away to the hospital the film seems to entirely forget about the protagonist it was developing, instead focusing in on her boring relationship with her parents. Helen becomes a character you're no longer interested in and because of that the "shocking" fantasies (four men orgasming onto her pizza) the film starts exploring seem like just attempts to shock instead of actual looks into the character.  Wetlands does attempt to play with the unreliable narrator concept a bit as Helen's fantasies and realities start to blur together. We're never quite sure what she's imagining and what she isn't by the end of the film, leaving the overly tidy conclusion to the film to be somewhat suspect in its truth. This approach does add an extra level of interest to the film overall, but it hardly saves Helen as an interesting character and thus hardly saves the movie. Thanks to a lack of well constructed characters and the film's abandonment of its most interesting aspects in the beginning Wetlands becomes shocking simply to shock and that does not make a good movie. You'll probably continue to hear a lot about it because people love talking about mainstream films that push sexual boundaries, but it really isn't worth the conversation since it doesn't do anything with the frontiers it pushes to.
Wetlands Review photo
All the shock, none of the value
Wetlands came out of Sundance with plenty of buzz for being shocking for its disturbing sexual content and brazen display of sexual acts. It was that movie every year that someone got up and walked out of because they we...

Nymphomaniac Trailer photo
A safe for work trailer? Glad it's longer than ten seconds
We hadn't been able to cover this on the site before, but Nymphomaniac has had a few trailers release and then quickly disappear from the Internet for very distinct, sexy reasons. Most of the ones that popped up in the past ...

Michael's 10 Most Unnecessary Nude Scenes of 2013

Jan 09 // Michael Jordan
10. Blue is the Warmest Color -  Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos  Coming in at an astounding 12 mins long of combined sexual escapades, Blue is the Warmest Color took its lesbian porn scenes with Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos to a whole new level of unnecessary when these two actresses hit each other's trenches as if it was World War II. Out of context you really feel like you just entered in to a high quality soft core porn (this might be the first one ever made!) and not an amazing movie about the growth of a young adolescent and her path to adulthood.  9. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa - Rubber penis in vending machine. You are already rolling your eye at the sight of "Jackass," I can feel it. We already know its going to be over-the-top, but penis in the vending machine over-the-top? I think not. In an effort to reach out to their demographic, teen boys that own rubber penises, Bad Grandpa takes some time out of its heart warming story of a Grandpa traveling the country with his 8-year-old grandson, to give us a tasteful dick joke or two.  8. Sweetwater - January Jones Its safe to say that January Jones is quite the bad ass right now. Whether she is playing Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class or Betty Draper in Mad Men, she has been mixing her sex appeal and personal strength to make some memorable characters. Sweetwater took some of that mysterious eroticism out of the sails, in one of the most ass kicking ways possible, when her character, Sarah Ramírez, busts out her hand cannon on two scoundrels on horse back who interrupt her river bathing. 7. Spring Breakers - Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens & James Franco Now this comes in kinda low on the list because you don't actually see any areola or dong, just some bodies grinding a butt, but put it into context of Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hugens sexing up James Franco doing his best impersonation of Riff Raff, and you have the recipe for shattered dreams that will leave you sad inside. I could have just as easily said the Rachel Korine drunken gang bang montage that actually shows some nipple, which is just as horrifying, especially when you think about the fact that Rachel Korine is the wife of director, Harmony Korine. That must have been an awkward talk, "Hey honey, I want you to be in a scene where you get topless and have an extremely depressing drunken gang bang montage that leaves you with physical and mental scars." I am sure those where his exact words.   6. Behind the Candelabra - Matt Damon & Michael Douglas  While this year has been kinda light on on the male side of nudity, it makes up for it in creepy. The autobiographical story of Liberace and his lover, Scott Thorson, takes you deep (bit the pillow) into there behind (wink wink) the scenes romance (butt sex). The "look who's up" scene is equal parts weird guy on the corner offering candy to kids, and "Holy crap, did I just see Michael Douglas in bed with Matt Damon. I need to stop drinking." 5. This Is The End - Giant Devil  Copying a page out of the video game adaptation of Dante's Inferno, This is the End sports a huge floppy Devil dong. With a litany of dick jokes, you could say this one was the largest in the movie. This has been a big year for digital penis physics. 4. Wolf of Wall Street - Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie I know what you might be thinking: the scenes are not over the top and are used to set the tone of their lives. Sure, but when it comes to having sex on top of a pile of money, then you have gone to far. Margot Robbie was even quoted as saying: I got a million paper cuts on my back from all that money! It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. If anyone is ever planning on having sex on top of a pile of cash: don’t. Also did anyone stop to think, wait are they now going to spend that cum covered money and where? The thought of handing it to some poor sob at McD's drive through is gut retching.  3. Trance - Rosario Dawson Now Trance was a pretty good heist movie starring James McAvoy as an art auctioneer that gets mixed up with a group of not so savory partners and a hypnotherapist. But though the smash and grab of a multi-million dollar painting heist left many confused and stumbling, Rosario Dawson sporting full frontal nudity and a Brazilian wax was just as jaw dropping. Dawson has come a long way since Clerks 2, that's for sure. 2. The Hangover III - End Credits While not known for its taste and refinement, The Hangover III sports raunchy jokes and an over the top story of drunken buffoonary, but the credits shot of full frontal male nudity just seems like a throw away, as if they did not have the balls to show it in the movie itself. Don't marginalize the penis Hollywood, you have wood right in your name! In a movie based on drunken dick and fart jokes, you would think they wouldn't have the testis to go all out. God knows they gave enough opportunity to do so in the movie.  1. The Canyons - Lindsay Lohan Oh Lindsay Lohan, the candle that burns twice as bright and twice as fast. What can I say she has made a career out of a train wreck. Not her career obviously, but a career for every paparazzi that chooses to follow her around, documenting her decent into crazy town (making me remember a very bad 90's band). Unlike most of the movies on this list, I would say the entire movie was unnecessary. The only reason anyone watched this movie was to see how many times Director Paul Schrader could get Lindsay Lohan to get naked. I am sure the words he used to convince her were more along the lines found on a mirror cut up with a razor and snorted via $100 bill than "This will win your respect back in the film making community." Honorable mention: Orange is the New Black - Laura Prepon and Taylor Schilling While not being a movie but still making the dreams of my teenage self come true, Laura Prepon, better know for her roll as Donna form That 70's Show, gives us a happily unnecessary (at least for me) lesbian topless make out scene in the first episode of this Netflix hit series. Unlike her past co-star on That 70's Show, Mila Kunis, who uses body doubles and CGI for her nude scenes (what are you hiding Kunis!), Prepon is not afraid to get a little chesty in a scene ripped straight out of a Cinemax late night skin flix. Honorable mention: Lady Gaga Not exactly having to deal with film but definitely making a scene in an effort to show just how little a crap she actually gives, and possibly to see how many STDs she can give to her fans in one show, Lady GaGa showed up to Lollapalooza festival in Chicago in this little number. Thank you Lady GaGa for all your hard work.
10 Least Necessary Nudes photo
Who bares it all?
Some times the film world likes to take things to the extremes, sometimes they just want to see if they can get a way with it, and sometimes they just don't give a flying poo about what they put in their movies as long as peo...


Florida children exposed to sex instead of Frozen

Everyone beat me to the Tyler Durden joke, but I'm gonna make it anyway
Dec 04
// Mike Cosimano
I haven't seen it, but the buzz around Frozen leads me to believe it might just be one of those kids movies; a thematically interesting film that doesn't talk down to children. It sounds like a real crowd pleaser, both kids a...
Fifty Shades of Delay photo
Fifty Shades of Delay

First images of the now delayed Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Delay
Nov 14
// Nick Valdez
The satisfyingly long wait for the Fifty Shades of Grey adaptation has been marred with quite a few problems. The script was going through some issues, Charlie Hunnam left the picture (the script may or may not have been a pr...
Fifty Shades of Problems photo
Fifty Shades of Problems

Fifty Shades of Grey loses Charlie Hunnam, needs rewrites

Hunnam and Fifty Shades weren't drift compatible
Oct 15
// Nick Valdez
Over the weekend, Universal's Fifty Shades of Grey motion picture (out August 2014 as of now) has been going through a few issues. First of all, Universal hired Patrick Marber to do some quick fine tuning of the script. Short...

Nymphomaniac posters show us their 'oh face'

Oct 10
// Matthew Razak
The promotional stuff for Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac has been absolutely stellar. They kicked off with a incredibly awesome, yet simple poster, then went into an interesting series of trailers and now finish off ...

Review: Don Jon

Sep 27 // Allistair Pinsof
Don JonDirector: Joseph Gordon-LevittRating: NRRelease Date: January 18, 2013 (Sundance Film Festival), March 11, 2013 (SXSW) Jon lives in an era of the transparency of porn. Hard cocks and jiggling boobs are shown in detail and freely available every waking hour on the internet. Sexual suggestion is now reserved for TV ads of a girl in tank top eating a cheeseburger while almost but not quite having an orgasm. Don Jon is a tool, a Guido, a chump, to be dismissed on first glance. Yet, Gordon-Levitt makes him a likeable guy and a sympathetic victim of his environment. Jon would fit right in with the cast of Jersey Shore, but somehow his machismo is endearing, calling to mind John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever or Rocky. He`s self-centered but not without heart. Wanting to discover a new plateau in his sex life (excluding porn), Jon courts ("long-term game") Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), an inarguable "diamond" according to Jon. Though he can`t see the point of romantic films any better than his older female friend (Julianne Moore) can see the point of him watching porn, Jon surprises himself with the lengths he goes to win this girl over. In the end, the sex is just sex -- a far cry from his coveted porn collection. Gordon-Levitt gives Don Jon a repetitive rhythmic pace in both editing and scripting. Sequences of porn browsing, club encounters, and road rage repeat throughout the film, mirroring the loud energetic but ultimately monotonous music blaring at the clubs Jon frequents. The camera work is also accelerated, often circling around scenes with great speed. The persistent use of music paints a strange mood around the film, blending hyper club anthems with a traditional string score and electronic glitch effects. Don Jon is a familiar love story that never feels like one. After all, it's a film about a narcissistic macho man who falls in love with sex. What makes Don Jon so great is the personality Gordon-Levitt brings to his material in both direction and performance. Undeterred, Gordon-Levitt examines porn's effect on society while keeping the film innocent and insightful. Geoff Henao: Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his writing/directorial debut with the fascinating Don Jon. While still fundamentally a romantic comedy, Gordon-Levitt touches on much deeper themes, such as the "stereotypical" portrayal of masculinity and how men feel as if they have to live up to such expectations, as well as a look at unrealistic depictions of sex in porn and how "real" sex is nowhere like the fantasy sex displayed online. However, Gordon-Levitt uses comedy and humor to address these issues. What results is a smart (probably the smartest) rom-com that isn't heavy-handed. Sometimes, the move from being in front of the camera to behind the camera can be hard, but with Gordon-Levitt's many years in the business, the transition was fine-tuned. From the editing to the acting to the script, Don Jon just feels like a labor of love. I hope and pray Gordon-Levitt acts for the rest of his life, but if he ever does decide to permanently move behind the camera, Don Jon is proof that he'll be perfectly fine in the director's seat. 85 -- Exceptional
Don Jon Review photo
That's some good jerkin'
Our rabid consumption of media informs our lives and habits as much as our upbringing. For Jon, that media obsession is porn. When he isn't debating what number to rate a girl at the club, he is masturbating three times a day...


Nymphomaniac is reportedly a five hour long comedy

Sep 12
// Matthew Razak
The Norwegian site Montages are dropping some Nymphomaniac bombs today by revealing that the film is basically a five hour long comedy that will be broken up into two parts. No wonder they couldn't get it all done in time for...

Japan Cuts Review: A Woman and War

Jul 15 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]215948:40386:0[/embed] A Woman and War (Senso to Hitori no Onna |  戦争と一人の女)Director: Junichi InoueRating: NRCountry: Japan  About two-thirds of the way through A Woman and War, I felt a sort of serenity wash over me. I realized that I was bearing witness to one of the worst things ever created. I knew that it was a complete failure on every level, and that nothing would change. It could have been the first time I ever walked out of a theater. But I didn't, because I wanted to write this review. Our review policy states that we can only write about things we've seen all the way through. I can't walk out halfway and then claim that it's terrible. I need to endure through the whole thing if I want to warn everyone else not to do the same. So I sat back in my seat, put my feet up, and suffered. I died so that you may live.  Have you heard of the Bechdel Test? It's a list of three criteria that something must follow if it wants to claim that it's got some measure of gender equality. The criteria are: There are two (named) female characters... Who talk to each other... About something other than men. Seems pretty straightforward, right? I don't know why, but I expected that something with a title like A Woman and War to maybe possibly pass that test. Because it's about a woman, right? And war. Usually war is portrayed as such a macho manly thing, so I think I thought that maybe they were going to subvert that. Maybe there would be two women who talked about it or something. But as we've already concluded: this isn't a movie; it's trash, and I don't really know what I expected anymore. A Woman and War fails the Bechdel Test so hard it hurts. And maybe I should have realized "A Woman" is not "Women," so there might not be more than one with any sort of character, but I didn't. But even then, there are no named female characters. I didn't realize it until looking at the cast list just now, but the protagonist, the one whose character is part of the title, does not have a name. And even if she did, it wouldn't mean much, because it's not like there are any other female characters to talk to. The other females show up on screen, say two lines, and then get raped.  Seriously. Pretty much every single woman who says one word gets raped at some point. Sometimes their only word is "No." or "Stop." Sometimes they have a few lines leading up to it, like "I would like to have rice." The only woman I can think of who doesn't get raped is the woman who unhappily offers herself to feed her children. Because, you know, semi-consensual sex would be disgusting. Let's back up. So A Woman and War follows three characters: Woman (Noriko Eguchi), a former prostitute who is now a wife I guess but is all about sex; Nomura (Masatoshi Nagase), a writer who I guess is married to Woman but mostly just has sex with her; and Ohira (Jun Murakami), a former soldier who lost an arm in battle and is now a serial rapist. What a ragtag bunch of fuckups, huh?  Let's talk about Ohira and his serial raping ways. Basically, it goes like this: he tells women that he can get cheap rice (rice is scarce and expensive; there's a war going on) and they follow him into the woods and then he hits them in the head with a rock and then rapes them and then strangles them. Also, he does this while only having one arm. It's so fucking stupid that I actually laughed at one point. I laughed at a woman being hit in the head with a rock so she could be raped. How fucked up is that? But I couldn't help it. She stood there and let him walk over to her, rock in hand, lift it up, and then hit her once in the head. That was it. I was in disbelief (a common theme, you'll notice). It was actually with each successive rape (he does this at least four times) that I could practically see the number you'll see below dropping. Subpar, bad, terrible, atrocious... repulsive. Truly fucking repulsive. But the thing that really gets me about it is that one of the earlier scenes featuring Ohira has him attempting to stop several men from raping a woman in an abandoned building. He is tied up and forced to watch (he gets an erection, of course). Then he goes and rapes people. One would think that maybe the trauma of being forced to see that would somehow have PTSD'd him (he is a veteran, after all) into raping other women. That would have been disgusting, but I would have seen some point to that. But no, he explains that he has been raping people in the military for a long time, because this is a film with a message: war is bad. So why did he try to stop the rape earlier on? Probably so the onscreen rape count could be higher.  Nomura isn't a bad character so much as he is a worthless character. He is just obsessed with sex and wants to constantly have sex with his war wife, Woman, who is basically willing to comply with whatever, because she wants to be a good war wife. Also because she likes sex, I guess, except she doesn't like sex. When she was a prostitute, apparently, she taught herself how to not enjoy sex so she could have sex with lots of men in a row without getting exhausted or whatever. Even though she stopped her prostituting ways, she never regained feeling. Nomura wants her to enjoy it and gives her plenty of opportunities to work through those issues. He fails, and in fact, it's Ohira raping her that finally pushes her over the edge into orgasm. That moment, by the way, was the one that dropped this score into the single digits, for what I believe is the first time in Flixist history. So he's just useless. And Woman? Yeah, let's talk about Woman. I feel bad even mentioning Perfect Blue in the same breath as A Woman and War, but I couldn't help thinking about the scene where Mima plays a character who gets raped in a nightclub. There's the very legitimate question of, "Why would she do that to herself?" At every single moment, I was asking that question about all of the women in A Woman and War, and Noriko Eguchi especially. Who could even hear the basic premise of A Woman and War and think that it was a project worth pursuing? All of the women are sex objects, which is bad enough for the random characters who exist only to get raped, but the fucking protagonist? The protagonist of the goddamn thing is just a sex object? She never talks about anything other than sex. There are maybe two paragraphs where she talks about her childhood or something, but it almost immediately returns to sex, because there's a war going on, and sex. And while these conversations are happening? Sex. He's either kissing her, licking her, or actually having sex with her.  And that is the entire fucking thing. It's just sex. Terrible, disgusting sex. Some of it consensual, most of it not. It's just rape rape rape sex rape sex sex rape rape rape rape. And in between, there are people talking about these things, and how war is bad and makes them be rapists because raping civilians while in the military is the best thing ever. Like Birdemic (the only thing I've seen that is worse than A Woman and War), it's trying to beat you over the head with a stupidly blunt political message. Like Birdemic, it's lost amidst the incredible incompetence that's on display. Even if it wasn't so godawful, it's not like the message would have made up for it. It's not original or even interesting. It's just a thing. A stupid fucking thing. When A Woman and War cut to black on the stupidest possible note, I started laughing again. I called up a friend and just laughed. I was in shock. I wasn't even angry. I was (and still am, two weeks later) in utter disbelief that this thing exists.  What these fifteen hundred words are in service of is this simple message: Do not, under any circumstances, see A Woman and War.  Seriously. Fuck that thing and everyone involved.
Second Worst
Stay classy, Japan
It's hard to offend me. Really hard. For a while, I thought it might be almost impossible. Not even A Serbian Film offended me (though it greatly disturbed me). At last year's Japan Cuts, I found out I was wrong: I ...

NYAFF Review: Hardcore Comedy

Jul 11 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]216017:40393:0[/embed] Hardcore Comedy (重口味 )Directors: Henri Wong, Chong Siu-wing, Law Yiu-faiRating: NRCountry: Hong Kong  "What's in a name?" Well, in the case of Hardcore Comedy, everything you need to know. It's a comedy, and it's hardcore (not as in penetrative sex, but not so far away). What the name doesn't tell you is that it is yet another anthology film from Hong Kong (see Tales from the Dark), but its tone differentiates itself from most of the other films like it. From beginning to end, it's a film that wants you to laugh. It doesn't always succeed, but if you're into sex humor it'll hit more than it'll miss. The three stories all take place simultaneously, linked only by a 10 second long interaction featuring a pink car and stunning defiance of the laws of physics that takes place about two-thirds of the way through each story. It's a funny scene, which is good, because it happens four different times from different perspectives, and once I realized that it was the closest thing the film has to some sort of overarching narrative framework, I started looking for details about how the next short might play into it. That was kind of fun, even if I had no idea.  The first short, "Shocking Wet Dreams," is the one that wears the Hardcore Comedy name on its sleeve. Two stereotypically geeky looking "hackers," refused housing by their school, take up residence in a local brothel. Prostitutes do their thing on the floor below, and the two students do their thing above. And yes, their thing does periodically involve thinking about what might be going on down below. Another non-prostitute lives on the second floor, a gorgeous girl who invites the boys over for dinner. Also, a dozen prostitutes are also invited, and things get awkward. Over time, things get better and the boys become more integrated into the social circle, but it isn't a film about two losers having sex. It's a lot weirder than that. For the most part, I enjoyed it. It goes to some really stupid places... but it's called "Shocking Wet Dreams." I mean, really? Of course it does. If it was some treatise on the human condition, I probably would have bought popcorn just to throw at the screen. I turned off my brain (except for the part needed to retranslate the bad English) and allowed it to just happen. It wasn't the most comfortable thing to watch in a crowded theater, but it was fun and it's not that long. The best thing about an omnibus is that if something isn't spectacular, it's not a two hour thing to sit through. Before you know it, it's over and the next short has begun. "Run on Drugs" and its follow-up, "Can't Stop the Killing," have a bit of the craziness of "Shocking Wet Dreams," but they're really much more subdued. They also both have something closer to a narrative arc. "Run on Drugs" is a romantic comedy of sorts following a brand new drug-runner finding a girl who he's trying to sell drugs to and then falling in love with her. "Can't Stop the Killing" is about a guy who needs to pay back his debts to a very dangerous man, and he is given the option to pay up or go murder somebody. He chooses the latter. Both of them sound significantly more serious than they are, but their conceptual grounding helps to differentiate them both from the films that preceded them and also from other similar stories.  Without a doubt, "Run on Drugs" is the best of the three. The characters, performances, and comedy are all great, and I think it is also the only one that could have seen some expansion. I'm not saying it's too short, but if the characters were to be revisited in a feature film down the line, I wouldn't have any complaints. "Can't Stop the Killing" is number two, mostly because it has an awesome ending but also because it's just genuinely good. It doesn't have to rely on sex like "Shocking Wet Dreams" does. And I liked "Shocking Wet Dreams," but it hides a lot of narrative problems behind breasts. A perfectly legitimate tactic, and one that works, but it only works on a base level, where the other two have a bit more substance. As a hardcore comedy, though, it is an extremely successful film. I laughed constantly, and I imagine that it's even better in its native language (although maybe the script is actually terrible, and I'm too ignorant to know). So we return to the thing that kept me from truly loving Hardcore Comedy in the way I so desperately wanted to: the translation. From beginning to end, the subtitles were riddled with all kinds of spelling errors and general grammatical failings. I understand that it's difficult to translate things, especially with the character limits imposed on the screen, but that doesn't excuse such a terrible translation. The only film I can compare it to is The King of Pigs, which was completely ruined for me by its translation. The Hardcore Comedy one is only marginally better, but because it's not going for serious drama, it's not hurt quite as badly as The King of Pigs was. I'm hoping that this was just a symptom of this being the film's World Premiere (although you'd think they'd work extra hard to start things off on the right foot), and that by the time it reaches home media or Netflix or whatever the subtitling issues have been worked out. And it's not like they can't find someone to fix them. I'm totally serious. I will actually do it.  Anyways, if you can see Hardcore Comedy, I recommend doing so. It's sexy (kind of), funny (certainly), and unique (unquestionably). There's not much out there that's like it, and that alone makes it worth checking out. Prepare to be distressed by the way it kills the English language, but when you aren't thinking about how badly it reads, you'll definitely be able to enjoy how well it plays.
Harcore Comedy Review photo
How to piss off Chinese censors in three easy steps
I'm willing to forgive occasional errors in subtitle translations. It's a tedious job and mistakes happen, whatever. I see them, and it makes me sad and takes me out of the experience, but I move on. I'm not going to mention ...


First clip for Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac

Jun 28
// Liz Rugg
Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac will be a long tale about sex. It centers around Joe, a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac who is found by an older man beaten up in an alley and, you know, like you do in those situations, she re...

Sam Taylor-Johnson directing 50 Shades of Grey

Still unclear if books should even exist
Jun 20
// Matthew Razak
Amidst wild speculation that almost no one in our websites demographic cared about one name has arisen to the top of the pile in the hunt for a director for the 50 Shades of Grey movie. That name is Sam Taylor-Johnson. Y...

BFF Review: Mr. Angel

Jun 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215737:40215:0[/embed] Mr. AngelDirector: Dan HuntRating: TBDRelease Date: TBD The mere existence of Buck Angel calls perceptions of gender and identity into question. At the most base level, he makes people wonder if sex organs should be taken as gender identifiers or signifiers. In one of his porn videos, Buck has sex with another transgender performer who's male to female and has also never undergone bottom surgery. Fleshbot editor Lux Alptraum points out that this scene is heterosexual since it's a man having sex with a woman. Then again, it's a woman with a penis having sex with a man with a vagina, which upends old sexual categorizations and ways of thinking about straight and gay sex. This sexual and gender inversion makes Buck a couple of different things. For one, he's an inspiration for others dealing with gender dysphoria. He talks about conversing with people going through similar struggles that he did growing up, and the pride of making the change. Looking up information online, there are also members of the trans community who don't like Buck for some of his comments and views about gender issues. Buck's defense of Dan Savage (who appears in the documentary) for alleged transphobia is also a sore spot for some in the community. Buck's also the unfortunate subject of ridicule. Sometimes it seems semi-good natured, like when Buck appeared on Howard Stern and rode the Sybian. That appearance isn't in the film, though I've heard the audio. Conversely, Buck also appeared on The Tyra Banks Show as a "sexual oddity" (a phrase from their title of the episode); later in the documentary, Buck's wife Elayne reads hate mail aloud. And of course, being a porn star makes it hard for Buck to be taken seriously as an advocate for trans rights and gender issues. Filmed over the course of six or seven years, director Dan Hunt presents Buck from many different angles. Here's Buck the porn star, here's Buck the activist, here's Buck the husband, here's Buck the public speaker, here's Buck going to the gynecologist. (The way he laughs off the absurdity of a man going to the gynecologist is endearing.) Hunt provides an intimate portrait of a fascinating person, and while the pieces seem contradictory, they actually make for a surprising whole. It would be armchair psychology at best to suggest that I understand what Buck must've gone through in his transition from female to male, though certain dots can be connected. I think a lot of that is thanks to the way Hunt presents a rounded and seemingly whole version of who Buck is. Prior to Buck's gender reassingment, he was a tomboy who felt drawn to rugged images of masculinity. Buck was a gifted runner in his teens and as a young woman Buck was a very attractive female model -- slightly boyish in the way many female models are but definitely feminine. And yet Buck was ultimately troubled once puberty kicked in. That's when the suicidal and self-destructive impulses started. Buck's parents and sister appear in the film and talk about Buck's deep problems with anger. They also reveal some unresolved issues concerning Buck's change from a woman to a man. This is particularly true of Buck's father, who loves Buck even though he blames himself for the way Buck's life turned out. The film doesn't state this outright, but it's obvious that the change from female to male was the best thing that could have happened to Buck. All of that self-loathing and depression that Buck experienced growing up (and here's that dreaded armchair psychology) was likely due to his gender dysphoria. The transition from female to male wound up becoming a path to sobriety and even love, both for himself and his wife. But it goes further, because now Buck wants to change the world. When Buck shows his parents the episode of The Tyra Banks Show, he points out how offended he was to be considered a sexual oddity. "But you are," his dad says. I don't think he meant it to be hurtful, but it was simply a statement of how society views a man with a vagina. It's weird because it's so uncommon, and I write that not trying to be transphobic. I'm simply stating why, in this time, in this paradigm about gender, it's considered weird by so much of the public. Maybe through advocacy, a new concept of normal can come about. It'll take time for this new normal to take hold, of course, but these are conversations worth having since we're coming to a better understanding about gender and sexuality (even though America continues to be so prudish about it). The most important takeaway from all this is that gender means more than just a penis or just a vagina, and that people should own and love who they are, no matter what. "My vagina is awesome!" Buck proclaims during a public speaking engagement. Not just your vagina, my good man.
Mr. Angel Review photo
Meet a man with a vagina, a compelling personal story, and a mission
If someone were to tell you that Buck Angel is a porn star, you'd assume he does gay porn. Just look at the picture of him in the header image. He looks like a butch guy, and a name like Buck Angel is a gay porn star name par...


Trailer: The To Do List

Sex and comedy together again
Jun 04
// Matthew Razak
Ahhh, the teenage sex comedy; so easy to get wrong and yet so good when it's right. Kind of like sex. Which I've had. With women. I mean my wife and only my wife. She reads this so lets make that perfectly clear. I should pr...

Nymphomaniac to have actors's faces on porn star bodies

Lars von Trier will get freaky with computers and body doubles
May 21
// Hubert Vigilla
Even though many elements of Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac have been closely guarded, a few details have slipped out from producer Louise Vesth. According to Vesth, there will be graphic sex scenes featuring actors Charlotte ...

Latest Nymphomanic production photo is sexy

"Ayy guuuuhr!"
May 17
// Geoff Henao
Nymphomaniac is shaping up to be one sexy ride (hurr hurr hurr). Following the first still from the film showcasing Charlotte Gainbourg about to ride the trike with her two friends and the film's first promotional p...

Trailer: Kiss of the Damned

May 03
// Liz Rugg
Kiss of the Damned is yet another sexy vampire movie, who's characters much choose between romantic passion and bloodlust. In Kiss of the Damned, the lovely vampiress Djuna succumbs to the advances of human Paolo and soon he...

Review: Aroused

May 03 // Nick Valdez
[embed]215423:40042:0[/embed] ArousedDirector: Deborah AndersonRelease Date: May 2, 2013 (VOD) May 3, 2013 (limited)Rating: NR As mentioned earlier, Aroused is a documentary by Deborah Anderson that involves 16 women in the adult film industry and one casting agent. It's a series of interviews broken up into two halves. The first half of the film are interviews with several of the women as Deborah asks them questions while they're getting ready for their photo shoot. The second half opens it up to the entire cast as it takes a more relaxed approach to the interviews (quite literally) and the women just talk about whatever subject happens to pop up.  I'm someone who doesn't know too much about the adult film industry or its stars, but when you approach the film as one that's shedding light on a career that normally doesn't get a different set of eyes, the content of the interviews work extremely well. These are all women who choose to sell their body (unfortunately, only some of the stars go into why they started) and through the film you do get the feeling that they want folks to look at them differently. You're mileage will vary depending on how close you are to the adult film industry. If you're an adult film connoisseur, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't at least give Aroused a watch.  Unfortunately while some of the interviews approach the depth with its stars that Aroused advertises, most of them are only skin deep. Many of the women's stories are heartbreaking (especially Brooklyn Lee, who gets the closest to having true emotional clarity in the film) and the film would benefit from exploring them further. Although that's a consequence of the film's huge cast. With its 16 women, the film spreads itself too thin causing the sidelining of most of its stars (who admittedly only get 2-3 minutes of screen time) and sends a weird message in a film that wants to promote female empowerment (and in case you didn't realize that's what Aroused is going for, Anderson explicitly states this in the beginning of the film and transitions are marked with famous feminist quotes). Maybe if the film worked with a more manageable number, the cropped sections of interviews wouldn't feel so misused. And that's not even mentioning how interesting the casting agent's segments were (the film could have used more of the business perspective).  One of the more distracting elements of Aroused has to be its cinematography. Although the transition from black and white to color is handled very well (to represent the change in formality as the women get more relaxed), the second half of the film is mainly close ups of the stars' naked bodies and faces. Aroused attempts to marry the images of nudity and power, and to emphasize the control the women have over their sexuality, but this ultimately fails as the context of the interviews reach an intimacy undermined by the visuals. While the relaxed format works extremely well, it's hard to connect with a woman on screen if there's a unrelenting close up of her naked breast.  Even with all of its odd choices (backing soundtrack tends to overpower the women's voices, Anderson hilariously plugs her previous work in the middle of the film, some of the women don't get enough screen time), I still like Aroused for what it is. The women's stories make or break a film like this. Even if those stories could potentially go farther, it's still worth hearing what these women have to say.  Aroused is a window into an industry that tends to only show certain sides of itself. The window may need some cleaning, but if you put in the effort, you can still make out the beautiful interior. 
Aroused Review photo
Adult film stars emotionally bare all
Aroused is an odd documentary. It's essentially an advertisement for director Deborah Anderson's art book (which she makes sure to plug in the film), and although at times the entire film seems disingenuous, it's hard to deny...


Nymphomaniac gets one hell of a poster

The sexiest parentheses ever
May 02
// Matthew Razak
Lars Von Triers upcoming Nymphomaniac will most likely set off a lot of talk much like all his controversial films do. Some people are going to love it and others hate it, but when we all look back some time in the ...
Aubrey and a Popsicle photo
Aubrey and a Popsicle

New The To Do List clip and images have pineapple juice

Plus Aubrey Plaza does stuff with a Popsicle.
Apr 11
// Nick Valdez
In this new clip for The To Do List (formerly, and more awesomely, known as The Hand Job), Aubrey Plaza does stuff to a Popsicle and promises to do other things as long as some gentlemen drink some pineapple juice (for very ...

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